Love Island USA has cast a bisexual woman for season 4. Representation win, I guess? 24-year-old Courtney Boerner might be representing the sapphics on reality television this year, but is all representation good representation?
According to E! News, Courtney Boerner is a stylist who has had 19 plastic surgeries. Despite being bisexual, she lists Keanu Reeves, Michael B. Jordan, Will Smith and James Franco as her celebrity crushes. She hates bad breath more than anything. She “could not live without her jewelry…or her vibrator!” And, finally, she “loves a great personality and has dated both men and women.”
Courtney Boerner might be my political opposite, but I don’t question her when I question whether her casting is good, or even authentic, representation. I question Love Island. And there is a lot to question.
Love Island is a reality television show where conventionally attractive young people couple up, make alliances and compete in saucy challenges. After hurt feelings, couple-swapping and the least attractive rejects being sent home, the public votes for the top couple to win a cash prize of $100,000. They decide whether to vote for love, which means they share the money, or vote for the money – and leave their “partner” with nothing.
In 2018, more young people applied to appear on Love Island than they applied to either Oxford or Cambridge university. University isn’t for everyone–and, believe me, it has its issues–but this stat reveals young people’s changing career goals.
Harry Sellers spoke about his choice not to go on Love Island in 2018 to The Guardian: “My modelling agency said it could be good – but it might all go very badly and potentially ruin my career,” he said. In the end, he decided, “I don’t want to be that guy who goes on Love Island and promotes tooth-whitening products and does club appearances for the rest of my life.”
He says he has been asked to go on the show three times and believes it’s because he fits the producers’ ideal aesthetic. When asked what the producers appear to be looking for, he said, “Worryingly, it’s obviously a person who looks like me – which is probably why I’ve been asked three times,” he said.
“People have a perception of me that I’m a classic lad and a love rat because I stay in shape and I’m a model. The phrase: ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’ comes to mind. Although I project a certain image on Instagram, it’s very much for my modelling.”
If you’re conventionally attractive and willing to humiliate yourself on television, then Love Island offers a get-rich-quick scheme. You build a social media following while on the show and then, when you step off the set, you’re a trending influencer with a bunch of brand deals.
Sounds okay, right? Well, not really. Beyond the threat to your career, like Harry Sellers mentions, Love Island has a history of ex-contestants–and even hosts–committing suicide after their time on the show.
Courtney Boerner’s appearance on Love Island USA is worrisome to me. It’s not a move towards positive representation. Why? Because bisexual contestant Sophie Gradon, from the UK series, committed suicide after she dated both men and women on the show. She was a victim of cyberbullying and trolls once the cameras stopped rolling. Much of it was because of her sexual orientation.
“[Sophie Gradon’s] appearance on ‘Love Island’ opened her up to a large fan base, but also attracted a large number of trolls who objected to her pairing with [Katie Salmon],” according to Gulf News. “Two years later, Gradon participated in a talk on the impact of social media on children, where, during an interview with Radio Aire, she revealed that she had been a victim of intense cyberbullying and trolls.”
Gradon’s experience with cyberbullying was intensified by her bisexuality but all contestants, especially females, are at risk. “It was horrific. I think when you get so many comments on the scale we did coming out of thousands of followers,” she said in the interview. “Sometimes I would look for it … There would be so many negative comments. They are commenting on the way you look, the way you talk. They would come up with an opinion of you on a TV show where they’ve watched you for 45 minutes.”
That same year Gradon hanged herself at her family home.
I’m tired of lesbian and bisexual women being used as fap material on reality television, only for them to be cyberbullied by the same dudebros who make up the demand for lesbian porn. I would bet big money on Courtney Boerner’s bisexuality being the “freaky” advantage she had over other equally conventionally attractive women vying for the Love Island cast.
Lesbian and bisexual women are more than a freakshow to spice up heterosexual television.
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